The Portland Trail Blazers keep relying on their excellent offense to pull them through the big games, but more than anyone else it’s LaMarcus Aldridge who is getting the job done, putting up another huge night of scoring and rebounding, carrying a misfiring Damian Lillard to the finish line, beating the Houston Rockers 111-104.
This gives the Blazers wins over the Spurs, Warriors, Pacers and Thunder this season, and sort of avenging their early season loss to the Rockets, who did get big nights out of Dwight Howard and James Harden, but couldn’t get stops on defense or play smart enough basketball when they weren’t in the open court in order to match the firepower the Blazers brought with them to the shootout.
Aldridge finished with 31 points and 25 rebounds, tormenting anyone trying to guard him – Terrence Jones, Omri Casspi or Chandler Parsons. It forced Dwight Howard to leave the paint quite a lot in order to help, but it didn’t really make any difference, putting on some impressive numbers, but also allowing Portland to grab 15 offensive rebounds – 5 by Aldridge and 5 by Robin Lopez, who finished with 10 boards and a surprising 16 points.
An intersting difference between the two teams was the depth. The Rockets used only three subs, including Jeremy Lin coming off the bench for only 15 minutes (probably should have spent more), and none of them for more than 19 minutes. At some point, the Rockets were the ones who starting slowing down in a quick and confusing game between two athletic teams, some incredible highlight-type plays but also a lot of mistakes, as you expect from this kind of pace.
Lillard was awful, finding it quite difficult against Patrick Beverley, but also simply not getting his shots to drop. He finished with only 1-of-10 from the field, as both teams found it hard to hit from beyond the arc, combining to shoot only 27.6%. It turns out, it hurts the Rockets more than the Blazers, as Nicolas Batum and Aldridge simply had more ways of scoring in half court possessions. Batum finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, including a huge three pointer off an Aldridge assist to help seal the game.
Mo Williams was the usual benefactor coming off the bench, scoring 13 points, although the Rockets did find it easier to play against that second lineup of the Blazers, and especially when Lillard was off the court while Williams played with Matthews. You don’t expect Portland to succeed when Lillard and Matthews shoot only 26.9% from the field combined, but they have smarter playmakers in their starting lineup, and the ability to get stops on the perimeter in crunch time, something the Rockets forgot about doing during the final moments as the game slipped away from them.
As Aldridge became the first player in franchise history with a 30-25 game and the first since Kevin Love a few seasons ago, the Blazers try and find out how they can win without hitting three pointers all night and by relying on their bench and defense as well. At some point, that tough Western road trip will arrive, and for it they’ll need more than just the offense we’ve seen from them so far.